Dr. Margo Greenwood,left, and Dr. Sarah de Leeuw will be leading the $1.3 million-dollar project for the University of Northern British Columbia. UNBC photos

UNBC researchers spearhead $1.3M Indigenous health care project

Initiative seeks to employ more Indigenous health care professionals, create ‘culturally safe’ environment

Researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia are looking to enhance Indigenous employment and cultural safety in health care, and have received a funding injection of $1.3 million to do so.

Over the course of five years, the project will focus on ways to transform health service delivery in Northern B.C., across existing organizations and professions, into a “culturally safe” environment in which to provide and receive care, according to a UNBC press release, issued today (Nov. 26).

Cultural safety refers to creating health services that are inclusive and respectful of Indigenous people, by encouraging health-care professionals to have awareness of and sensitivity for local Indigenous cultures, according to Northern Health.

The project also aims to inspire new generations of Indigenous youth in the North to enter the health-care field.

Dr. Sarah de Leeuw and Dr. Margo Greenwood received $1.3 million as part of a Healthy and Productive Work Initiative – Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to launch the initiative.

It is the first joint federal research partnership grant of its kind to be held at UNBC, and is one of only nine such grants held across Canada. The work builds on a pilot project launched in 2016.

Key partners on the five-year project include numerous Indigenous and non-Indigenous stakeholders across the North, Northern Health, Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George, and the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH). The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), also a major partner, is contributing an additional $130,000 in funding.

“We are excited to have started this journey with our partners through which we will explore ways to celebrate Indigeneity in health care,” said de Leeuw, Northern Medical Program and Geography associate professor. “It’s an opportunity to develop northern-focused solutions that seek to create a more culturally humble health-care system that embraces Indigenous people and Indigenous knowledge.”

“We are going to look at what each of us in the North can do to help support our common goals in this project,” noted Greenwood, First Nations Studies and Education professor, and Northern Health vice president of Indigenous Health. “This means getting together with stakeholders across the region, having good conversations around the issues, and encouraging people to be self-reflective on practice, programs and the system.”

The project is also receiving support through in-kind contributions, valued at approximately $460,000, from the project’s other major partners, including Northern Health, Two Rivers Gallery, NCCAH and UNBC.

“Access to culturally safe care is a critical part of our ongoing commitment to improving services in our region and fostering respectful and collaborative relationships with our Indigenous communities,” said David Williams, Northern Health vice president of Human Resources. “We are committed to becoming more reflective of the people we serve in the North and look forward to furthering that goal through this project. We hope to attract more Indigenous employees to our workforce and also continue to improve the workplace for those employees.”

READ MORE: Indigenous children still being treated unequally by provinces: advocate



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